It Will Be A While Before My Veggies Grow


Sorry to bore you with a gardening story for the second week in a row, but I am on a roll here. Having had some rain recently, I decided to turn over my garden. As you recall, there is an existing raised-bed garden in the backyard of my new house — a garden that was once the envy of the neighborhood, I am told. Of course, that’s when it was filled with vegetables.

But how hard can it be to grow something? I mean, look around. There’s green stuff everywhere.

In fact, there’s plenty of green stuff in my garden right now, but most of those stems sport dandelions, thorns or oak leaves — nothing the neighbors are raving about. So these must be the much-maligned “weeds” of which I have heard tell. Most of them seem quite healthy and beautiful. What if I just leave them alone? No, I have to try for vegetables.

And that means turning over the garden. I have seen this done every spring by people who know what they’re doing, so I must do it, too.

This reminds me of a completely unrelated story. When I was about 12, I meandered down the alley to the house where the new neighbors were just moving in. The father was out back, turning over the garden (this is my common thread) and I pitched in to help him. Pretty soon I asked, “Is it true you work for the FBI?” He put down his shovel. I don’t know how far he’d traveled to find the secluded ivy-covered house on the nondescript street in the middle of the hundreds of thousands of homes in the buzzing metropolis of Milwaukee — but you can’t keep a secret from a 12-year-old busybody!

But back to work. My daughter lives on a micro-green farm, so they have plenty of tools lying around, and I asked the farm manager what I should use. She gave me a broad fork. It’s like a triple-wide pitchfork and is supposed to make everything go triple-fast. Good. Because when I think of gardening, I think of speed.

What she didn’t tell me was how to operate the broad fork. I stuck its prongs into the ground as far as I could, and that was about an inch. But I knew the ground was wet, so I jumped onto the fork. The fork leaned, leaned, leaned and I jumped off before the splat.

Frustrated, I drove it into the ground again and leapt back on. This time I put one foot on the left side and one foot on the right and jumped up and down as hard as I could. The tines sunk into the soil. Success!

As I progressed down the rows, I found that things moved more quickly if I heaved the fork into the ground, jumped on, spread my legs and wiggled my rear end as hard as I could. This was both effective… and entertaining for the neighbors. The women on each side of me were watching from behind their window curtains, and the man in the yard behind mine retired to a lawn chair and lit up his pipe.

I didn’t care. Adults-only rating aside, I was going to get this garden turned over if it killed me.

An hour later, I limped into the house. An hour after that, I had my shoes clean again.

I will dominate my garden, but nobody told me there’d be dirt involved. At least, not that kind.